Simplifying our home

scalesI find it really interesting how people use the space in their houses, particularly blended families like us.  We have seven children and adults every second week, but every other week it is just my husband and I, rattling around in a very large home.

My husband has recently taken a break from work, and it got us thinking. We wanted to use the time to plan out a more simple home to meet our needs, as well as take care of a few renovation projects that were long overdue – our home is showing age and wear in a number of places (bit like me, really….)

To overcome the feeling of too much space every second week, and to create a cosy simple home, we are renovating our living area and kitchen to create a relaxed living space, that together with a our bedroom will be like a little one bedroom apartment. We have organised the zoning of the heating and cooling to move from large house to small apartment; and we are creating a family living area for the big house and a smaller cosy living area for just the two of us.

So with much excitement you can watch our progress over the coming months. We have started in the living area and have pulled up our slate floor, replacing it with a smaller space gas heater.

Here are some before and after photos:

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This was a rarely used area of our house that seemed to be the room for the front door! We have installed the fire and the television with a sound bar, to remove the need for a large stereo and cabinet. Work to date looks like this:

fire place

The fire is calming and relaxing. The set up will enable us to enjoy many warm nights by the fire and appreciate the space. And my husband as the head space to really think about each piece of the renovation plan, building and modifying the home to meet our needs.  It’s fascinating really – while we were both busy work with a crazy out of control life, the house was where we put our bags and keys and lay our heads at night.  Now, with only one of us working, it feels so luxurious to think about each individual room, it’s purpose, personality and to make our house a home.

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Empties update

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Hi all – long time! I have been working full time over the past two months to pay for some home renovations which has meant time has been in short supply. We are trying to do a lot of the manual labour ourselves so every waking moment has involved either working or pulling up slate, painting windows and thinking about kitchen plans – hardly a simple life!

But for me the opportunity is in really thinking about each living space and how we can enjoy it as a family. Our kitchen renovations will enable more food preparation space, to work with the increased volume that will come through the veggie patch that we have expanded. It will mean better organisation of kitchen items and another opportunity to purge as we pack up the old kitchen before it gets knocked down. It will mean more outside family dinners in summer as we open up our living space onto the entertaining area outside. Summer this year will be filled with beautiful family times.

In the meantime, we will be enjoying the fun of doing hard manual labour together and planning living spaces to suit our lifestyle.

I just thought I would update you on my empties that I posted about six months ago. I had this horrible obsession of responding to every gift with purchase opportunity that arrived through David Jones in my letter box and I had a horrendous amount of small cosmetics, umpteen lipsticks and many makeup items that was never going to use.

So I sorted them into things that I would use, things that I would give my teenage daughters and things to recycle/discard.

The things that remained, I committed to using. Slowly but surely over the last six or so months I have used them. I have barely anything left, except for about ten lipsticks which I will continue to work my way through. And I have committed to replacing my cosmetics and skin care products with only things ethically produced or largely natural – only when the run out.

Above is the evidence of the last six months. I’d recommend it. You don’t need to buy doubles and triples of things, or items that come with a gift. Most of the stuff you don’t wind up using and if you are like me, you forget you even purchased them in the first place!

 

 

Transitioning to zero waste part 3 – in the workplace

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The key to reducing waste and consumption is to …well.. reduce waste and consumption. And generally that sounds like it might be about a whole heap of planning and organising –  a bit of an onerous task.  The reality is that it requires both organisation and time, but makes me feel generally more on top of things for the week and is totally worth it.

I’m really enjoying The Simple Home by Rhonda Hetzel and you know I’ve already skipped ahead and read until June, but it’s great to have these month by month books to read to remind you of the schedules and systems to set up during the course of a year, rather than meeting the world of chaos with your own brand of it, through a lack of organisation.

In The Simple Home, Rhonda reminds me to have a look at my schedule on an annual, monthly or weekly basis and see if my auto-pilot routines are working for me and my family.  In fact, with every new activity or event in your family, taking a look at your regular routines is a fabulous way of ensuring that your go-to routines are working.

Transitioning to low waste is a very good reason to take a look at our routines.  Like how what I buy for the kids for their lunches, how it needs to be stored and how they will transport them to school.

Same applies to my lunch.

So we all now have colour coordinated lunch boxes that we take each day. One colour for each child (sandwich, fruit and snack boxes) so I can tell who is leaving their containers at school…. That’s how I solved the plastic container mystery that has plagued me for a decade…..

These containers are fine for now and BPA free and when I can afford it, I’ll replace these with stainless steel, compartmentalised lunch boxes.  In the meantime, my lunchtime routines for all of us are to:

  • Do a weekend cook up of our lunch mains.  This could involve baking bread and making a whole heap of sandwiches, to bacon and egg cups, pizza scrolls or today – using up some leftovers, I made Asian steamed pork and egg ramekins that I can now take for the three days I am working this week. Last night’s leftovers also make awesome lunches for the next day and I pack them straight after dinner.
  • I take my own utensils to work.  For two reasons – there are never any forks in the work kitchen drawer ever!  I could do a PhD on this – every workplace I have ever been to always has heaps of knives and spoons, but the forks seem to be the first to disappear – I wouldn’t be surprised if a small sample of 100 working households had a hodgepodge of mismatching forks in the utensil drawer……Secondly – I can wash it and reuse it the next day.
  • I take a napkin, so as not to use the disposable paper towels.
  • I take a piece of fruit and some nuts and these are contained in my neoprene lunch container which is where I put all of my empty containers home for a wash.
  • I have a stainless steel canteen 1 litre drink bottle which I refill with water – keeps it yummy and cool. The kids too have water bottles and they know my deal if we are out and about shopping or at a function – I won’t be buying them a soft drink or bottled water (grrrr) – they need to carry their drink bottles with them too.
  • Finally, I take a keepcup for my coffee in the mornings and this has been such an easy thing to incorporate into my work low waste routine because I leave it in the workplace and just wash it out each day.

For the kids, one of my teenager daughters loves to bake, so she bakes a little sweet biscuit or cake each weekend for the lunches (the upsides of having kids who like to be independent).

In terms of organisation – it does mean that I use a little bit of time each weekend to prepare, but then each morning it’s a quick grab and go kind of affair to get ready for work or school in the morning with no kids moaning about there being nothing to eat for lunch.

The areas that I am looking to reduce waste are my husband’s sandwiches, which he makes each weekend and freezes, but then pops into snaplock bags – I have to find him a better low waste alternative.

The last low waste thing I think about in the workplace is printing reading materials. I have just purchased a laptop that doubles as a tablet (my old lap top was on its last legs – particularly after I dropped it on the slate floor……will need to think of a low waste disposal for it..) so I am trying to bring my laptop to work to reduce the need to print out material for meetings.  As a result I have the cleanest desk I have ever had in my working life… but there is still room for improvement.

Now you may be wondering why the picture accompanying this post is one of six small cabin-sized suitcases…….WELL…..We are taking the whole family to Europe for the next month!  Eeekk! We are very excited.  And we are only taking cabin luggage, to simplify our experience. I’ll let you know on our return how that little experiment goes.  One of the upsides of having a simple life and not consuming so much is that we have been able to save for an amazing four-week trip to Italy, Switzerland and France. I’m beside myself, so are the kids and it is just so wonderful to be able to offer the children an amazing, once in a lifetime experience, rather than – say – a new family car. The old one will do just fine for a while longer and in the meantime, I’ll have a glass of Italian wine in Florence for you all…Ciao.

 

Transition to zero waste part 2

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Today in the Low waste series I wanted to talk about being low waste in the work place.

For a typical worker, this usually comes down to three things:

What you wear to work

What you eat at work

How you manage your work flow

For today’s post I will focus on what to wear. Like many of us I have struggled with a wardrobe full of clothes and nothing to wear. Prior to adopting a simple lifestyle I’d hazard a guess that nearly 80% of my disposable budget went into clothing, shoes and handbags. My habit was shopping. I shopped if I was sad, bored or needed a pick me up. I shopped to celebrate and to spend time with friends. My kids knew that on the weekends they were with me, we shopped for fun. We joked about how many bags we bought home. Looking back I’m pretty ashamed. I’m also ashamed at the opportunity cost of buying all those clothes the time and the wasted money. Money that could have been devoted to financial freedom. Anyways, onwards and upwards from here

So my approach to my work wardrobe is very different these days. Now I look at clothes as a means to an end. I need to look professional at work, but really every dollar I spend on having multiple wardrobe options is another two dollars that I have to work, and it stands between me and not having to work for an income at all!!

If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is.

So I know approach my work wardrobe using Courtney Carver’s Project 333. I raise eyebrows at work when I mention it, usually followed by a comment that people haven’t realised that I have worn the same thing twice.

The approach is simple. Thirty three items for three months. It involves sitting down and being really deliberate about your wardrobe for a few days. It starts with:

What are the basics that I need in my work wardrobe? For me its ten dresses, two suits that have skirts and shirts. To keep things matching, I usually chose complementary colour schemes. This summer it’s been black, navy and grey.

Then I need a couple of layer pieces like some cardigans and perhaps a scarf or two.

I then turn to mind to what is going to delight me this season – thinking about your fashion interests that season what are a few nice pieces to update my wardrobe and make me feel contemporary

Finally a couple of statement jewellery pieces and a great bag

I have to admit that I am not an op-shopper, but to keep my waste low, I limit the clothes that I buy, and then donate clothes once I have finished with them so that other people can enjoy these pieces that I have enjoyed.

Do I get sick of the same old same old? Sure I do. But I also think about whether it’s worth me having multiple work looks, compared to a life of no work and independent income streams. That keeps me satisfied with wearing similar clothes over and over again for sure.

 

Book Review – A Year of Practiculture, Rohan Anderson

 

Book Review: A Year of Practiculture by Rohan Anderson

There is nothing like the passing of a close loved one to sharpen your focus on living a simple life.

My husband’s father passed two weeks ago and we are still coming to terms with it all.

At the same time, I’ve been doing some contract work and while the work is meaningful, it’s challenging and I don’t have the internal resources to do that job well and continue to live simply.

So – I’ll be finishing up work in six weeks before we head overseas and I’ll head into another stage of simple life re-evaluation. Life is too short. Loved ones need to be loved. Life is to be lived and not endured.

So as a little break from my low waste journey, I thought I’d review a book that makes me happy. A Year of Practiculture by Rohan Anderson is just that book. It’s so many things! It’s a:

  1. Biography of one man’s journey from office worker to self-sufficient simple lifer. It’s a great story of how you can prioritise your health and have a meaningful, nearly self-sufficient life.
  2. Funny book. It’s hilarious. If you have a teenage boy sense of humour like I do, you’ll be chuckling the whole way through this book.
  3. Recipe book. It’s got 100 no-fuss recipes from Rohan, his garden and things he hunts. AND THE RECIPES ARE DELICIOUS. Fancy some lamb-neck with summer broad beans anyone? It’s a wonderful seasonal recipe book that you can use as your garden produces fresh, bountiful crops.
  4. Practical how-to in the garden book, written especially for Australian conditions. I love the way he makes mistakes and records them so we can learn from them. Like investing too much of the garden bed in a crop that didn’t produce (corn) and the precise calculations you need to make when surviving off the land.

I have a major confession. I am only half way through the book. I made my kids buy it for me for Christmas, and I greedily started zooming through the pages, sneaking little moments to read a little bit more. But then I realised because this book gives me such pleasure, I will eek it out through the seasons. I read Spring; Summer has been read, recipes tried and now I will wait until Autumn to dive in again to my favourite book. In the meantime I might re-read Spring and Summer again. Thanks Rohan for producing amazing material and inspiring us to grow our own, and live a simple life.

Zero waste transition Part 1

 

I think Bea Johnson is absolutely inspirational and I watch her household video that I wrote about last year OVER and OVER and OVER AGAIN. I just want my house to look that that. Now.

But of course, Bea herself admits that it has been a massive journey to get to that amazing household destination.

Here’s how we have started.  And please note, I don’t receive any commissions on any product recommendations below.

Bea’s first point is to refuse anything that goes to landfill coming into the house. Sheesh. Big ask. No-one in my household, apart from my oldest teenage daughter was into it at all, so I decided to start with refusing things that were completely in my control.

My fortnightly grocery shopping.

I’m a big cook-from-scratch kind of girl, so I thought this part would be easy peasy. I found that it was not, and I had to spend some considerable time researching in my local area to find some answers.

Firstly – the only store that provides foods in bulk, that I know of, is our local Food Co-op. There’s a new store called Nude Food, but I am a loyal co-oper.  I like their values.

So to complete my Co-op shop I either take to the shop some of these:

Breathable fruit and veg bags

Images courtesy of www.Onya.com.au and www.thehospitalityshop.com.au

Or larger bags to carry produce in (bottom right hand corner).

I’ve been unable to source some calico bags for flour and sugar, but they are on my wish list. In the meantime, I take glass jars (top right hand corner) to purchase these products.

I purchased a whole heap of glass jars from cheapo shops, but have found that their closures aren’t as good as the good quality homewares shops, so as they break down, I am replacing them with good quality jars like the one shown.

The Food Co-op then weigh the size of the jar and deduct it from your purchase.

I find at the Co-op I can purchase my bread making flour in bulk, as well as most of my dry goods like other flours, sugar, cacoa, pulses and legumes, spices and definitely their delicious organic dark chocolate covered almonds……

Then I shop at either the local farmers market or our fresh food markets. Here again, I take my produce bags, shopping bags and glass Pyrex containers to get my meat in. I find the organic meat shops are more used to these type of random requests (like please don’t wrap my meat in plastic and paper – put in my glassware instead please). Buying meat this way is a heavy job – usually I do the fruit and veg shopping first, empty my trolley into the car and then go and do the meat shopping.

That way, I can put the meat straight into the freezer or the fridge without any plastic wrapping or Styrofoam bases.

When I purchase bread (my husband doesn’t like my sour dough, even though it gets rave reviews from others!!) I go to Bakers Delight, ask them to cut up my bread and put it straight into my shopping bag. I’ve had to educate a couple of people on why I am doing it (saving the planet one plastic bag at a time) but now they joke that I am the crazy bag lady and it’s a bit of a novelty for them.

Once I come home from the fresh food shop, I do spend half an hour to an hour cutting up vegetables and making sure they are stored in glass containers in the fridge. You can’t store your veggies in the Onya bags because the bags are breathable and they go all limp….

Finally, last but least I do any other product shopping at Aldi or Woolworths. I look for recyclable packaging. Eg do you know that Aldi pasta packaging is recyclable? I finally put all of my shopping away in their containers, empty out any packets or packaging that I have begrudgingly had to purchase.

As I go around, putting my shopping away, I leave out any plastic, unrecyclable packaging that is going straight to landfill and I put it on a list to explore next time. The next time I go shopping, I look for alternatives, one product at a time, to reduce the overwhelming feeling of trying to zero waste everything at once.

zero waste list

I’m still looking for a gummy bears solution… my husband eats four packets a week…..

Anyway I hope you and your loved ones had a great Christmas break and New Year. My posting schedule will be fortnightly again this year (although I want to sneak in a review of this most beautiful book that I have been relishing over summer next week….). I look forward to hearing from you if you have any zero waste challenges or tips for me.

If not consumerism, then what? Post minimalism

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I love the serendipitous way that youtuber or a blogger can post exactly what you need to read/hear at precisely the right time.

It happened last week. Light by Coco posted a youtube video on discovering who are you are post minimalism. If you are not shopping, caring for your things and maintaining your things, and you have done the big clear out, then what do you actually do with all of that down time?

This is exactly what is happening to me right now and its both terrifying and exciting all at once.

Once upon a time, I was a kid who loved music and dreamed of a big job with a big pay. The dream came true, but on the way to a big job with big pay, I lost my music. I became a mother and a professional and a consumer. A consumer who thought that if only I had a ….(insert latest tech gadget, kitchen appliance, item of clothing, bag, house) then things would be better. I would be happier.

Of course on the path to minimalism, I realised that while constantly seeking out, wanting more and living in the future, I was letting my actual life pass me by. I was not paying enough attention to my childrens’ lives. I had neglected my passions.

Yesterday my husband and I had a bit of time to kill in between purchasing some groceries and going to a movie. We wandered around the shops and purchased nothing. Absolutely nothing. Both of us discussed how we are far less inclined to want anything from the shops any more. The mere activity that I once longed for and craved felt empty and misleading.

I’ve also worked out some new work arrangements to reduce workplace pressure.

OK so I am here now. In the middle. In between not wanting to consume, not wanting to indulge, to live simply and appreciate what I have. Work will be less stressful. I get up in the mornings on weekends now and my household jobs don’t take long. I exercise and that’s one hour. I spend a little bit of time in the garden, tending to my veggies and watching their progress. And then there is….

Not much.

So the next couple of months will be about a journey to discovering what else is out there. I will explore and only truly look for those things that I am passionate about. I’ve reduced the meaningless activity out of my life and I don’t want to replace it with new meaningless activity.

Step 1: I’m going to learn to do something new that is consistent with my new slow lifestyle. Not sure what yet – permaculture maybe, or furniture restoration.

Step 2: I am going to reconnect with food. For a long time I have just been going through the motions with food, just cooking what I need to, repeating the same old same old recipes. Food is boring now. So to reconnect, I am going to go through each of my recipe books and cook from them systematically. A qualifier is that the recipes will need to be wholesome and simple – with few exotic ingredients.

What have you done post a consumeristic lifestyle? What has helped you make the transition from consumer to slow?

Organising to simplicity part 3

The third part of my breaking up with organising series – this is all a work in progress, and I will continue to update as I simplify.  Today’s photo series are focused on my study area – and I apologise in advance for the dark before shot.  Nonetheless – easy to see it is clutter heaven.  This is where I process our admin and do our scanning/filing – more scanning and less filing these days as I try to cut down on the paper I store.

You can see there are some attempts to organise (containers for things, desk top filing units) but it wasn’t a picture of simplicity.

before photos study

And here is my after attempt – less stuff, less to organise and more peaceful.

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Organising to simplicity part 2

Part 2 of my breaking up with organising series – this time, the linen cupboards in our house.

Six beds and seven people equals at least double of that, in sheets, towels, beach towels and extra bedding for guests.

You can see in the first set of photos, a decent attempt at getting organised (still lots of things, now in neat boxes)

 linen before

linen before linen on table

Revolting amounts of excess linen here…

The first attempt after shots (not bad – a few less things and neater in boxes):

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And in the second attempt earlier this year – less things, in neat boxes.

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And one little scary creature that I found while tidying again EEK!